California Senate and Assembly approves Rap Lyrics Bill

The new law limits the use of rappers’ lyrics against them in court.

On Monday (22 August), the California State Senate and Assembly unanimously voted in favour of the Rap Lyrics Bill, known formally as Bill AB 2799. The proposed act is now awaiting signature from Governor Gavin Newsom before it officially becomes law. Once in effect, this bill would restrict the use of rappers’ lyrics being used as evidence against them in court cases.

Earlier this year a similar bill was approved by the New York Senate but failed to pass the State Assembly. The proposal of this law in New York and now in California comes in the wake of Young Thug and Gunna’s trial. The YSL rappers were charged in Georgia for conspiracy to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act and prosecutors used their lyrics as evidence against them.

In statement, author of the Rap Lyrics Bill and California Assembly member Reggie Jones-Sawyer said, “We should not stymie the creative expression of artists. Unfortunately, racial biases play a role when talking about musical genres. Rap music lyrics share many similarities to that of other musical categories yet are singled out by the judicial system to characterize an artist. AB 2799 would disallow prosecutors from triggering racial biases or reinforcing racial stereotypes and it gives judges guidance on the use of creative expression in court.”

Back in June Young Thug’s YSL imprint also shared the Rap Music on Trial: Protect Black Art petition, calling for action against the criminalisation of Black creativity within courtrooms across America.

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